Friday, July 06, 2007

In Conclusion

The problem with drab, long-drawn conferences is that they are filled with drab, long-drawn presentations. Soul-crushingly dull presentations that seem to go on and on forever, without really getting anywhere.

For some bizarre reason, the length of these presentations is often directly proportional to the pointlessness of their content. I stumbled upon this revelation while sitting through one such remarkably pointless talk. Having missed the day’s breakfast by virtue of not waking up on time, I desperately needed a snack to keep myself alive till lunch. The import of the situation was clearly lost on the presenter however, who seemed to have wagered with someone that he couldn't use the words incentivize, leverage and synergize together in thirty-nine different slides. Whoever had put the money against him had clearly underestimated the man’s gift for platitude. Meanwhile, I squirmed in my seat.

Finally, after what seemed like hours of meaningless rambling, the speaker propped up a slide titled Conclusions. “A-ha,” I thought to myself. “We are getting to the end of this.” My plan of strategically positioning myself near the exit promised to pay off, as I prepared to make a dash for it to beat the rush to the hors d' oeuvres.

But what’s this? Just as I was about to get up, another slide popped up. Conclusions (Continued), it proclaimed. I felt cheated. I felt betrayed. This sort of skulduggery had no place in a conference, I decided. The presenter however lumbered on, unmoved. As he finally reached the end of the slide, I readied for the obligatory applause. Only to be thwarted by another slide. Summary, this one was called.

I swore under my breath. This was most unnecessary. What could he summarize now that he hadn’t already concluded? The pointlessness of all this was excruciating. Still, I put on a brave face and kept nodding intermittently, as the torment continued.

The Summary slide was followed by not one, but two slides featuring Future Work. Things were starting to get blurry now. “Gaah! does anyone honestly expect this work to be done in the future”, I wondered through clenched fists and misty eyes. The c.f. and m.e. were greeted with yet another slide, tantalizingly titled Final Thoughts. I had a few final thoughts of my own on what I wanted to do with the presenter. Without going into details, I’ll suffice to say that they didn’t involve food. I was trying to stay positive here.

My positivity got dealt a severe blow as the Acknowledgements slide made its appearance. By the time the presenter was done thanking the sixty-odd committees, faculty members, aunts, uncles, cleaning maids and the neighbour’s dog, I had taken to gnawing on my arm.

Then in a flash, it happened. A blank page popped up on the screen, with a tiny end of presentation scribbled on top. I rejoiced. Did a little jiggly dance in my head. Hope, it seemed, sprung eternal again.

The presenter wasn’t having any of it however. He wasn’t going to give in so easily. “Any questions from the audience,” he asked dour-faced as ever. A wrinkly, obviously well-fed fellow cleared his throat. “Yes, could you bring up slide four again, please.”

I hope someone else chronicled the rest of the session, because at this point I lost all consciousness.


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